It seems like I’ve spent most of the last eight months we’ve owned Tor Aluinn bashing my head against various walls, but with the turn of the year I’m faintly hopeful that we might be moving forwards again.  Colin the tree surgeon arrived on New Year’s Day (yes, I know!) to take a look at the trees in the back garden.  He agreed with me that the massive pine next to the house with the electricity cable running through its branches needed to come down completely and suggested he trim and balance the other large pine and tidy up the remaining trees.  Even better, he also does other landscaping and garden works, so I asked him to quote me for sorting out the bramble and blackcurrant overgrowth, getting the lawn under control and generally sorting the whole garden out – two of his guys can do in a day what will take me about a month of stomping around in waterproofs and swearing!  The really good thing is that he is trained and insured to take trees down by climbing them, which means no heavy machinery on my neighbour’s beautifully-mown paths through the grass outside my boundary.  The trees and brambles are being worked on tomorrow, which was the earliest date SSE could give us for getting someone out to turn the mains cable off, and then I think the rest of the garden will be done a bit later in the year, after I’ve taken the tree trunk off site (he could dispose of it for us, but asked if I wanted it cut into manageable lengths to burn, which should give us a fair amount of firewood).

I went out there today to leave some keys for him in case he needed to get into the house and to my delight Pete and Al had made it out to start knocking through downstairs.  It’s going to be a fabulous big room and it better balances out the huge living room at the other end of the house.

The other end of the room doesn’t look quite so tidy.

There’s still a bit of wall left to come down – Pete’s van is in for servicing tomorrow (which is handy, because we’ll have both Colin and SSE taking up the parking places), but they’ll be back on Friday to finish this off.

And, most handily, where they’ve taken out the poured concrete skirting, there’s a nice access point to undernearth the floorboards, exactly where Chris will need to get into to run power to the kitchen island.

The less good news was that the boiler had stopped working.  We ran out of oil while we were away on holiday, so I got a delivery as soon as we were back, repressurised the boiler, hit the reset button and all seemed well.  I was slightly suspicious that it had turned itself off again last time I was out, but the thermostat was reading 9C (it’s on the Eco setting and should be maintaining at 10C) and I shrugged it off as it not having hit the boundary temperature to fire up again.  Today I checked the pressure, hit reset and although the boiler sprang into life, it didn’t make the WHUMPH noise that indicates it’s fired up and promptly switched itself off again.  I spoke to RDI and they’ll be out to look at it as soon as possible – it probably needs bleeding and they need to replace the dodgy non-return valve they found on their last vist.  We were going to wait to move that radiator until Pete and Al had sorted the wall, but I’ve said if they’re coming out, we might as well go back to the original plan of putting two isolation valves on it and letting Pete take it off the wall when he’s ready, then RDI can cross this job off their books.  They’re also going to test the emissions, as my neighbour has mentioned he can smell it very strongly when it fires, although that may simply be because it doesn’t have a garage around it any more.  (It’s been a bad day for boilers, the one at Ethel’s had stopped as well, but I managed to fix that one – pressure drop due to cold weather.  I’ve got guests arriving on Friday, so I’m hoping that’s all it is!)

As well as speaking to RDI today I’ve also rung a new plumber, as I’ve never heard anything more from the one who said they’d come and look at the job back in October, despite a few gentle nudges.  I got their voicemail, but they were recommended by my neighbour at home’s parents and they only live about 5 miles from the house, so I’m hoping that a nice chunky job close to home will be appealing.  Fingers crossed.  I also gave Chris the electrician a ring to see where I’d got to on his list and he’s hoping to start if not next week then probably the week after.  We’ve decided not to move the meter and consumer unit, I’ll get David to build me a nice small cupboard around them, as they’re not the prettiest.

I know it’s a bit early to start thinking about finishing touches, but I couldn’t resist a bit of shopping over Christmas.  Serendipity in Thurso got this beautiful slate house name made for me:

And then I hit Riverside Interiors for their January sale.  The Jude chair that I wanted for the living room was in it – at that much of a discount I’ll take the risk of the second one I’ll need to order not quite being the same shade of brown.  I’m having a pair of these in the bay window in the living room, looking out over the islands.

This footstool is also for the living room, but the other end, where the two big sofas and the TV are going.

Lighting was 20% off, so this will go between the sofas as a reading lamp.

And finally, this wasn’t a planned purchase, but I fell in love with it (oops).  If there’s enough room to get it into the corner in the porch behind the front door it’ll go there.  If not, it’ll go into the utility room, opposite the back door.  The perfect boot-removing seat.

Hopefully I can get back to some more regular updates over the next few months.  I think our planned target of finishing by the end of May is optimistic, but that’s not going to stop us trying.

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